Giovanni Paolo Pannini, "Picture gallery with views of ancient Rome" (1758).
I love paintings like this. Firstly because I love paintings of architecture. I like buildings and cities and public spaces, and I like how the lines of buildings compliment or contrast with the lines of perspective and the frame of the painting. Secondly because I love paintings within paintings. I love this impossible imaginary gallery with its majestic baroque vaults and its jumble of artworks representing the classical architecture which was the original model for that baroque. The galley has an unlikely opening at the back that reveals some king of monumental gate. To the left of the gate we see a painting of the arch of Constantine (another gate) and to the right the pantheon, its columns almost parallel to those of the gate. Which is more real? The sky outside matches the sky of the paintings. The style of the paintings is the same as that of the framing painting itself, and we almost get the sense that this hall is filled with mirrors or windows set at odd angles. To the right we have Trajan's column with its barely distinguishable frieze representing his imperial triumphs -- art within art within art. Of course, we would be seeing this in the Louvre, so we find ourselves in a gallery surrounded by paintings as we look at this one. Maybe we are in a painting as well?
I love the bravado of it. Why paint one just one painting when you can paint a gallery? A Borgesian labyrinth of paintings and play between styles and lines in which the dizzy spectator loses track of where he or she is, whether in Rome or in the imaginary gallery or in the real one.
When I was a child, one of the bathrooms in my house had a large mirror that had two wing-mirrors that could be folded out. I used to fold them into a triangle, leaving only enough space to stick my head in so that I could see an infinite forest of Liams, fading in distant green images of the weakening light spectrum. I know what Pannini was after -- holding infinity in the palm of his hand.
"Portrait of a Youth" (Lucrezia Borgia?) by Dosso Dossi.
The second picture, it has been asserted recently, is the only known painting of Lucrezia Borgia, the great femme fatale of the Renaissance. Only one question: hot or not?